Mount Kilimanjaro gets high-speed internet service: NPR

Hikers stand near tents along a trekking route on Mount Kilimanjaro in 2014. The Tanzanian government has installed high-speed internet service on the slopes of the mountain.

Peter Martell/AFP via Getty Images


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Peter Martell/AFP via Getty Images


Hikers stand near tents along a trekking route on Mount Kilimanjaro in 2014. The Tanzanian government has installed high-speed internet service on the slopes of the mountain.

Peter Martell/AFP via Getty Images

High-speed internet service has reached Mount Kilimanjaro, meaning climbers can now use their phones to help navigate and post to social media as they climb Africa’s tallest mountain.

State-owned Tanzania Telecommunications Corporation installed the broadband network last week at an altitude of 12,200ft and aims to bring connectivity to the top of the 19,300ft mountain by the end of the year.

“Today…I am raising HIGH SPEED (BROADBAND) INTERNET COMMUNICATIONS TO THE ROOF OF AFRICA,” said Nape Nnauye, Minister of Information, Communication and Information Technology, tweeted tuesday. “Tourists can now communicate globally from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.”

The new coverage aims to support tourism as well as security.

Nnauye said it was previously “a bit dangerous” for visitors and porters to navigate the mountain without internet service, according to AFP. An estimated 35,000 people attempt to climb Kilimanjaro each year, although around a third are forced to turn back due to altitude sickness and other problems.

As a bonus, climbers can now share selfies from the slope, and their friends and acquaintances can follow their route in real time (in case you didn’t think your FOMO was bad enough already).

Kilimanjaro is not the first – nor the highest – mountain to offer services to adventurers. Mount Everest in Nepal has had 4G mobile connectivity since 2013 and fiber optic broadband since 2017.

Critics say locals’ needs are being overlooked

The internet facility is also proving to be a source of controversy, with critics accusing the Tanzanian government of prioritizing tourists over the needs of locals.

Less than 45% of Tanzania’s land area (representing 83% of the population) was covered by any form of cellular reception in 2020, according to the Center for Global Development.

Josef Noll, a researcher at Norway’s University of Oslo, told NBC News that telecommunications coverage in Tanzania is almost entirely handled by international private companies, which purchase coverage licenses from the government.

He said operators had refused to extend 3G and 4G access to rural areas near the base of Kilimanjaro because too few people had the necessary handsets to facilitate internet use, adding that they could be more likely to buy them if there was internet coverage.

Nnauye, the Minister of IT, photos shared on Twitter of what he described as “tourists…appreciating the service”.

The emphasis on tourism is consistent with the role it plays in the Tanzanian economy. In 2019, according to the World Bank, tourism was the largest foreign exchange earner, the second largest contributor to GDP and the third largest contributor to employment in the country.

Still with tourists in mind, the Tanzanian government has approved the construction of a cable car on Mount Kilimanjaro – an idea that has generated a lot of reactions from environmentalists and mountaineers; the idea has been slow to progress since.

Broadband is part of a larger infrastructure initiative

Tanzanian authorities are working to expand high-speed broadband across the country through an initiative called National ICT Broadband Backbone, which is operated by the Tanzania Telecommunications Corporation on behalf of the government.

Its objectives include increasing information and communications technology for “equitable and sustainable socio-economic and cultural development of Tanzania”, as well as providing access to international fiber optic submarine cables via Dar es Salaam to neighboring landlocked countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Republic of Congo.

The project also enjoys financial support from China (which has invested over $4 billion in African infrastructure projects in 2020 alone). Chen Mingjian, Chinese Ambassador to Tanzania, celebrated the announcement on the internet in a his own tweet.

“Hongra sana! she wrote, which is Swahili for congratulations. “I hope to visit the ROOF OF AFRICA-Mount Kilimanjaro one day in person.”

Until that day comes, she – like many others – may have to settle for live-streaming someone else’s ascension.

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